Monday, May 23, 2005

Christians and online dating

One of my Christian friends sent me an e-mail railing on the advancement of online christian single sites on the Web. From his point of view, they promote the "meat market" mindset on which some conservative megachurches previously held a monopoly. Furthermore, he said, most are not even owned by evangelical entities. Some of them are owned by churches (LDS, in particular) far outside evangelical orthodoxy.

My friend, who shall remain anonymous (because I don't intend to embarass him), is not aware that I met my wife in 2003 on one of those sites: The key here is neither of us were looking for a spouse. We were both genuinely curious what all the fuss was about.

We were both well-acquainted with the pitfalls of online dating, since both of us had maintained long-distance relationships with people we had met in chat services. We both had horrible experiences. We were both aware the Internet creates a false sense of transparency, a false sense of intimacy that is almost impossible to recreate in person. We were both very slow to move into an exclusive relationship, even agreeing we would not use those magic words "I love you" until there had been considerable time spent with each other in the flesh. I think this is why we were so successful finding and accepting each other ... eventually into a lifetime of marriage.

That said, I do not neccesarily disagree with my friend's position. Online dating is not for everyone. I would suggest it is for a select few mature Christians who have first come to terms with their own singleness. If you are looking for marriage, you are more likely to find heartache.

The problem with the state of Christian dating in general is a lack understanding about the challenges of marriage in general.The American ideal of a spouse is someone with whom, "I can't live without." The problem is they should be looking for someone they can live with. I knew this before I got married, and my wisdom has been confirmed over and over again since then. Marriage requires work no matter how much in love the couple is. It requires sacrifice. Behind every successful marriage there is a spouse that is continually swallowing their pride. It takes someone who understands who they are in God as a single person to accept this reality going into marriage.

The Internet doesn't make finding this compatible companion easier, it creates more obstacles, particularly distance. My wife and I were seperated by 850 miles. While both of us had comfortable occupations, neither of us could afford a jet-setting relationship. One of us -- in this case, my wife -- had to sacrifice their comfortable existence and move to other's city to continue the relationship.

This does not account for the rampant deception, even by professed Christians. Many participants are dishonest in their pictures, in their bios, and their personal lives. Because you don't get to see them in their daily life, you have no idea if they walk out their faith when they're away from their computer. I'm thankful that God has afforded me a certain amount of discernment in these matters that has helped me avoid some horrible online dating experiences, but I could not imagine trying to discern someone's faith on my own abilities. In most cases, it's pretty easy to use a few keywords and fake a sincere faith.

Perhaps the biggest problem with online dating is that it mimics the "point of purchase" environment that has more in common with eBay than any church:

Before I get to know you and fellowship with you in Christ, I want to compare your photos and occupation to others to determine if you're even worthy of my time.

It's a wordly quality that puts indecorous emphasis on the flesh that makes online dating questionable on this point alone. If you want to add this poor attitude translates to the real world, too, go ahead. However, the online dating world fully empowers narcissists .

My experience was ideal, so I can't knock it outright. God has blessed me with the perfect mate because of it. My only advice for those single people considering online dating is to first challenge their hearts. Ask God to help you accept your singleness, that ultimately you don't need anyone else but Him in your life. That heartfelt perspective will keep you out of more trouble in both the real and the cyber realm of dating.

1 comment:

BearyAnn said...

I met my husband online. We were both part of a christian chat room. We had each met others in the group just to put faces with names. For myself, I enjoyed the website because it was well monitored and talk did not get vulgar. Also, I could be in the chat room laughing with others, while at home I was really crying.

We celebrated our 4th anniversary in January.

Online chat rooms and dating is not for everyone, but I praise the Lord for using such to introduce me to my husband.